Tokyo Drifter ★★★★

''Drifting, drifting on and on 'til memories of Tokyo are gone.''

Seijun Suzuki was an auteur bursting at the seams and no matter how much Nikkatsu studios attempted to tame and tone down his whacked out sensibilities, his very need to stamp his brand gave his films a kinetic and chaotic vibe that was truly singular.

After recently viewing his surreal and absurdist masterpiece Branded to Kill (released 1 year after this film), I expected to be wowed and dazzled equally with Tokyo Drifter, but it was not quite to be...

With a double, double, triple cross plot that almost defies comprehension, framed in a genre bending, avant-garde exercise in parody with a rambunctious mise en scène that almost defies logic, Suzuki is like a frustrated painter without all his brushes. Employing blown-out monochrome in the opening moments and shifting to an exotically shaded and surreal visual palette as the film progresses, and a theme song that wears it's theme on it's sleeve, Tokyo Drifter is a film that is hard to ignore, even if I wasn't always following what was going on. The western genre influence (check out the Leone style whistle) is front and centre whilst Tetsuya Watari as Tetsuya "Phoenix Tetsu" Hondo is super cool as the protagonist, but maybe a tad too icy for my taste which really kept me from embracing this as much Suzuki's follow-up.

Despite some reservations with the narrative, I still dug the hell out of this and will be back for another helping sometime in the future, but for now - Youth of the Beast is next on the menu...

''Flowers that to dream
say goodbye
will wither
and the dreams will die.
If I die, I’ll die like a man.
To be loyal, I’d even let
love pass by.
I’m a drifter,
the Man from Tokyo

Where is he, the vagabond?
Always drifting, always solo.
Where will he be tomorrow?
The wind, his girl may know
The drifter,
the man from Tokyo.''

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